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Credit: Ananya Chandra

The wrongful arrest of two black men at a Philadelphia Starbucks has been met with widespread backlash, prompting a nation-wide conversation on implicit bias and racial discrimination. In a recent announcement, Starbucks said they would close all of its stores in the United States on May 29 for employees to go through racial-bias training, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported.

The two men were waiting for an acquaintance at the Starbucks outlet at 1801 Spruce Street on April 12. They asked to use the washroom but were rejected because they had not purchased anything from the store. Later, they were both asked to leave and when they resisted, an employee called the police, the New York Times reported.

An anonymous witness going by the name Lauren provided her account of the occurrence to Action News.

“The two young men politely asked why they were being told to leave and were not given a reason other than the manager wanted them to leave,” she said. 

Some of what happened in the store was captured on a video that has been shared by millions across social media. 

The backlash to this incident has been swift. 

As protests against the company erupted across the city, Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson apologized for the "reprehensible" event. Starbucks has also issued an official apology and confirmed earlier this week that the employee who called the police is no longer employed by the company. 

Most recently, Starbucks announced on April 17 that they would close over 8,000 stores for 175,000 employees to go through racial-bias training, The New York Times reported

This announcement comes after numerous officials, including Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney called on Starbucks to take steps to prevent similar incidents from happening.

“I have asked the Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations to examine the firm’s policies and procedures, including the extent of, or need for, implicit bias training for its employees,” Kenney said late last week. “We are reaching out to Starbucks to begin a discussion about this.”

Andrew D. Gilman, the president of a crisis management firm CommCore Consulting Group, told the New York Times that closing for a day to implement training "goes far beyond the playbook” of typical crisis responses.

“That’s sending a big statement," he said.

There are currently five Starbucks stores on campus: at the intersections of 34th and Walnut, 34th and Chestnut, under Class of 1920 Commons, in the Penn Bookstore, and at 39th and Walnut streets.

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